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When we watch horror movies, our brains are hard at work, with lots of interconnected cross-talk between different regions to anticipate perceived threats and prepare to respond accordingly. This enhances our excitement while watching, according to scientists at the University of Turku in Finland. They mapped the neural activity of subjects in an MRI as they watched horror movies, and described their findings in a recent paper published in the journal NeuroImage,
According to co-author Matthew Hudson, now at the National College of Ireland in Dublin, the objective was to take a closer look at dynamic interactions in the brain during an intense emotional experience. Most prior studies on neural mechanisms have adopted a binary approach, in that the focus is on comparing two conditions. But this ignores the temporal dynamics between the two conditions—the continuous fear response.
Hudson told Ars, "We wanted to use a naturalistic stimuli and new ways to analyze neural data to try and understand exactly how the fear response changes over time" rather than simply comparing brain activity before and after a perceived threat. Horror movies provided the perfect fear-inducing stimulus.
There comes a point in the life of every foldable smartphone when, after a wave of hype and highly controlled early looks, the phone actually hits the hands of the general public—and durability issues immediately pop up. We've seen it with the Galaxy Fold, which died in the hands of reviewers and was delayed for six months; the Huawei Mate X, which had its launch limited to China and broke after a single drop; and the Moto Razr, which has a creaky hinge that jams easily and a display that delaminates. This weekend it was the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip's turn to disappoint us. The initial shipments are going out, and we're already seeing that Samsung's much-hyped flexible glass cover isn't much more durable than plastic.
YouTuber JerryRigEverything regularly does destructive durability tests on phones, partly by attacking a device with a set of Mohs picks. These pointy metal tools that are calibrated to the Mohs scale of mineral hardness allow a user to determine the hardness of a surface by doing a scratch test. You start with the softest pick and work your way up the set until you find something that can scratch the surface you're testing. A modern smartphone with Corning's Gorilla Glass scratches at level 6 on the Mohs hardness scale.
The Galaxy Z Flip features a first-of-its-kind flexible glass cover that Samsung calls "Ultra-Thin Glass." Until now, foldables have had to suffer through life with plastic display covers, which scratch easily, don't provide much protection, and just like a resistive touchscreen, feel bad to swipe around on, thanks to the squishy pliability of the display. With this new invention of flexible glass, the Z Flip promised a return to a hard, smooth, scratch-resistant display surface.
Coronavirus disease 2019—COVID-19 to its friends—hasn't racked up a bodycount like the influenza epidemic of 1918, but in this far more globalized world, it's still causing quite a degree of havoc. There are now over 71,000 confirmed cases reported so far, and fears of that number growing by orders of magnitude have resulted in the postponement or cancellation of large public events both in China and beyond. Last week we learned that Mobile World Congress, an annual tradeshow in Spain, won't happen in 2020—now we can start adding auto shows to that list.
On Monday, it emerged that the Beijing auto show—which was scheduled for April of this year—will be postponed, presumably until the health crisis is over. According to Autocar, rumors that the show would be cancelled or postponed had been circulating for a week, with no official response until now.
The Beijing auto show is in good company; last week the promoters of the Chinese Grand Prix—an F1 race scheduled to take place in Shanghai on April 19—successfully petitioned the FIA (the sport's organizing body) and Formula 1 to postpone the event until an as-yet-undecided date toward the end of the 2020 F1 season. Although there is no official word on the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix—set for April 5—some in the sport are concerned about attending that race in Asia as well.
10:15am ET Update: The launch of a Falcon 9 rocket proceeded normally on Monday morning, but just when the first stage was due to land on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, the rocket did not appear. Later in the SpaceX webcast, the company confirmed that the first stage made a "soft landing" in the water near the drone ship. SpaceX has yet to provide any additional details about what may have gone awry during the landing attempt.
Meanwhile, 60 Starlink satellites were successfully deployed into an elliptical orbit. Over the coming weeks they will use on-board thrusters to circularize their orbits.
Original post: SpaceX is readying a Falcon 9 rocket for the launch of 60 more Starlink satellites on Monday morning. If successful, the mission will bring the total number of satellites in its low-earth orbit Internet constellation to nearly 300.
The reality of a production-ready fully electric semi is now upon us, at least for the short-haul routes. Last week, Volvo Trucks revealed the VNR Electric, the centerpiece of an ambitious and highly collaborative $90-million pilot project. It's known as Low-Impact Green Heavy Transport Solution, or LIGHTS for short. In addition to Volvo, which has invested $36.7 million, 14 other entities from both the public sector and private enterprise have signed on to this collaboration.
"Bringing electric trucks commercially to market takes more than the launch of the truck," says Keith Brandis, vice president of partnerships and strategic solutions at Volvo Group. "With the LIGHTS program, Volvo and its partners are working on creating a true holistic strategy," simultaneously studying not only the performance of the truck itself, but also variables such as maintenance needs, route logistics, infrastructure requirements, and environmental impact.
"Goods movement in the region is one of the biggest contributors to smog-causing emissions and 22 percent of emissions from California's overall transport sector," says Harmeet Singh, chief technology officer at Greenlots, the company developing and deploying the charging infrastructure for the LIGHTS program. "Our goal for the project is to demonstrate that electric trucks and the requisite charging infrastructure and systems are ready for real-world application," Singh told Ars.
Intel's Clear Linux distribution has been getting a lot of attention lately, due to its incongruously high benchmark performance. Although the distribution was created and is managed by Intel, even AMD recommends running benchmarks of its new CPUs under Clear Linux in order to get the highest scores.
Recently at Phoronix, Michael Larabel tested a Threadripper 3990X system using nine different Linux distros, one of which was Clear Linux—and Intel's distribution got three times as many first-place results as any other distro tested. When attempting to conglomerate all test results into a single geometric mean, Larabel found that the distribution's results were, on average, 14% faster than the slowest distributions tested (CentOS 8 and Ubuntu 18.04.3).
There's not much question that Clear Linux is your best bet if you want to turn in the best possible benchmark numbers. The question not addressed here is, what's it like to run Clear Linux as a daily driver? We were curious, so we took it for a spin.
Do you like stop-motion animation? I love stop-motion animation. I can't remember a time when I didn't love stop-motion. From King Kong to the California Raisins—put that good stuff straight into my veins.
The current champion of stop-motion is Aardman Animations, which mostly works in a brand of modeling clay called Plasticine that is equal parts cutting-edge and charmingly handmade. I stumbled across an Aardman short called The Wrong Trousers (1993) on PBS in high school, and I was hooked. The film follows a pathologically British inventor named Wallace and his long-suffering dog, Gromit. In Trousers and their other various adventures, Wallace displays a profound lack of proportionality: he builds Rube Goldberg inventions when a butter knife would do, he buys robotic pants to help paint his walls, and he constructs a rocket to go to the Moon when he runs out of cheese. He also lives in a universe where everyone has more teeth than could possibly fit in their mouths.
I love Aardman's stuff for two big reasons: I love the way it looks, and I love its worldview. An Aardman production combines near-miraculous feats of stop-motion with characters who mostly have resting "durrr" face. Aardman's clay tears glisten like real water, but since running is a physical impossibility for stop-motion figures, they just walk hilariously fast instead. I love that the chickens in Chicken Run (2000) use their "hands" to cram feed into their mouths even though it would probably have been easier to show them pecking like real birds. The animators went out of their way to be inaccurate. In the universe of Aardman, "charming" trumps "realistic." (Also, Aardman did the 1986 music video for Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" in conjunction with—holy cow—the Brothers Quay.)
Late last year, Ars picked Parasite by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho as the best movie of 2019. Last weekend, so did the Oscars. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that 100 percent of Academy voters must read Ars.
My experience with Korean filmmaking in general...
Because I'm basic AF, my first exposure to Korean cinema was when the jury at Cannes (headed by Quentin Tarantino) awarded Oldboy the 2004 Grand Prix. From there, I watched the rest of Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy and The Handmaiden as well as making my way through flicks like The Chaser, A Tale of Two Sisters, A Hard Day, Attack the Gas Station!, and Train to Busan. If you've heard one thing about Korean films in general, it's that they are violent. I am by no means an expert on every movie put out below the 38th parallel, but I am reasonably erudite about the Korean films that US distributors have seen fit to bring stateside in the last couple decades as part of what's called "New Korean Cinema." This reputation for violence is partly warranted and partly marketing.
The phrase "Urban Air Mobility" (UAM) seems like it's been with us for quite a while, but really it's only been in widespread use for two or three years. NASA officially recognized UAM in 2017, calling for a market study of remotely piloted or unmanned air passenger and cargo transportation around an urban area. Most people would probably call this the "air taxi" idea—a vision of hundreds of small, unmanned electric multi-copters shuttling two or three passengers from nearby suburbs or city spaces to vertiports at about 100 mph (roughly 161 km/h).
But if things had worked out differently in the late 1950s and early 1960s, we might have a very different understanding of UAM—something more like mass-transit. We might have had a city-center to city-center 55-passenger vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) airliner shuttling between urban heliports at 180 mph (289 km/h).
Actually, we did have that, it's just few people remember. It was called the Fairey Rotodyne.
The name Porsche conjures images of fun time behind the wheel. For me, that means tooling around in a friend's 1969 Porsche 912 on sunny Colorado afternoons with the top down. Of course, while many of us grow up dreaming about cruising winding roads in a roadster, reality ends up looking like squiring our kids and groceries around sprawling suburban streets in something with at least two rows of seats.
Like every other carmaker that wants to stay in business, Porsche has embraced the SUV. Indeed, the Macan was the Stuttgart-based OEM's best-selling model worldwide, with nearly 100,000 shifted in 2019. (The Cayenne was second, with 92,055 sold—we truly live in an SUV-ified world).
Launched in 2014, the Macan is still in its first generation, albeit with a modest makeover in 2019, the visuals of which are seen mostly in the interior and in new front and rear fascia. From a performance standpoint, last year's refresh made the front wheels a half-inch wider, added some new tires, and swapped out steel for aluminum in the forks that connect the front-axle carrier to the spring and damper. There is little change to the 2020 model.
Last month, the cryptographer and coder known as Moxie Marlinspike was getting settled on an airplane when his seatmate, a midwestern-looking man in his 60s, asked for help. He couldn't figure out how to enable airplane mode on his aging Android phone. But when Marlinspike saw the screen, he wondered for a moment if he was being trolled: Among just a handful of apps installed on the phone was Signal.
Marlinspike launched Signal, widely considered the world's most secure end-to-end encrypted messaging app, nearly five years ago, and today heads the nonprofit Signal Foundation that maintains it. But the man on the plane didn't know any of that. He was not, in fact, trolling Marlinspike, who politely showed him how to enable airplane mode and handed the phone back.
"I try to remember moments like that in building Signal," Marlinspike told Wired in an interview over a Signal-enabled phone call the day after that flight. "The choices we’re making, the app we're trying to create, it needs to be for people who don’t know how to enable airplane mode on their phone," Marlinspike says.
Five guests at a remote vacation resort find their fantasies are turning into nightmares in Sony Pictures' big-screen reboot of Fantasy Island, based on the popular TV series of the same name that ran from 1977 to 1984. This 21st-century update plays up the horror aspects and has been touted as a cross between Westworld and The Cabin in the Woods—perhaps with a little bit of Lost thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, the film fails to capture any of the elements that made those works uniquely appealing, and the result is a muddled mishmash of tired tropes and yawn-inducing plot twists you can see coming from miles away.
(Mild spoilers below the gallery.)
Fantasy Island was always a terrific storytelling concept, despite its cheesier elements. Apparently, creator Aaron Spelling pitched the series to ABC executives as a joke after they'd rejected all his other ideas—and the network loved it. The ultra-urbane Ricardo Montalbán played the dashing Mr. Roarke, proprietor of the titular island, providing guests the chance to live out their fantasies for a suitable price. He was aided by his trusty sidekick Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize). Every episode opened with Tattoo shouting the catchphrase, "Ze plane! Ze plane!" and ringing a bell in the island's main tower as guests arrived.
Approximately 400 Americans may finally get to go home after being trapped aboard a cruise ship in Japan with the largest outbreak of coronavirus outside of China.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday announced plans to evacuate the US citizens, who are encouraged to disembark the quarantined ship—the Diamond Princess—and fly to the States on planes chartered by the US State Department. The aircraft will arrive in Japan on the evening of February 16. Upon their return, the Americans will be subject to a 14-day federal quarantine in one of two military bases.
Everyone aboard the Diamond Princess has been under quarantine on the ship in Yokohama, Japan (south of Tokyo), since February 3. At the start of the quarantine, there were 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew on board the ship. Since then, 285 cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) have been identified, according to the latest figures reported by the World Health Organization.
In August 2018, President Donald Trump claimed that social media was "totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices." Not much was new about this: for years, conservatives have accused tech companies of political bias. Just last July, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked the FTC to investigate the content moderation policies of tech companies like Google. A day after Google's vice president insisted that YouTube was apolitical, Cruz claimed that political bias on YouTube was "massive."
But the data doesn't back Cruz up—and it's been available for a while. While the actual policies and procedures for moderating content are often opaque, it is possible to look at the outcomes of moderation and determine if there's indication of bias there. And, last year, computer scientists decided to do exactly that.Moderation
Motivated by the long-running argument in Washington, DC, computer scientists at Northeastern University decided to investigate political bias in YouTube's comment moderation. The team analyzed 84,068 comments on 258 YouTube videos. At first glance, the team found that comments on right-leaning videos seemed more heavily moderated than those on left-leaning ones. But when the researchers also accounted for factors such as the prevalence of hate speech and misinformation, they found no differences between comment moderation on right- and left-leaning videos.
"It really looked like I had plenty of time to go across," an anguished Florida truck driver said in an interview transcript released by the National Transportation Safety Board this week. Unfortunately, he was wrong.
Richard Wood was driving a semi truck on the morning of Friday, March 1, 2019. He pulled onto Florida's SR 7 from a driveway, intending to make a left turn. But as he crossed to the opposite lane, a Tesla Model 3 belonging to Jeremy Banner crashed into the side of the truck. Banner's Tesla went under Wood's trailer, shearing off the roof and killing Banner.
The case attracted wide attention because Banner had engaged Tesla's Autopilot technology. Not only that, the circumstances of Banner's death were almost identical to the first Autopilot-related death in the United States: the death of Josh Brown in 2016. Brown was also killed when Autopilot failed to stop for a semi truck crossing in front of him on a Florida highway.
Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.
I once spotted a barracuda while scuba diving. It darted in close, shimmering silver, its features reminiscent of a high school bully: lean, sharp, with an underbite that jutted forward in defiance of both authority and band kids.
If I were to build that creature in Oceans, the latest card game from North Star Games, its traits would be Speed, Apex Predator, and Scare The Crap Out Of Fourteen-Year-Old Dan. (That last one is a promo card. It isn’t available, so don’t request it.)
In the quarantined Chinese city of Wuhan, health workers fighting the explosive outbreak of a new coronavirus have been improvising for weeks, trying to provide whatever care they can for Covid-19 patients whose symptoms range from a cough and fever to severe pneumonia, septic shock, and organ failure. In addition to treating these symptoms with oxygen therapy, ventilators, and antibiotics, doctors there have also resorted to experimentation. With no approved treatments for any of the illnesses caused by coronaviruses, health workers have been trying everything from steroids and antibodies to drugs normally intended for HIV and influenza. But because these treatments have been dispensed on a case-by-case basis, without any rigorous, centralized tracking of results, it’s hard to know if any of them are effective against the new disease.
Now, researchers in China are racing to launch more systematic tests of these repurposed medicines. Since January 28, scientists have registered 19 clinical trials in China, and at least a few have already begun dosing patients. With initial results expected as early as April, the swift leap into clinical research is an important one for frontline health workers desperate for hard evidence about which therapies work best. The trick will be making sure that evidence stacks up.
Apple only recently fully integrated its Files file-and-folder-management app with the rest of its own apps and services on iPhones, but Google has already taken that step with its popular Gmail iOS app.
Google announced in a post on its G Suite updates blog today that users will be able to attach files to emails from folders accessible from the Files app. This feature is coming to both the iPhone and iPad versions of the Gmail app, but Google says it could take a while to reach all users.
Additionally, this means that you can add files from Dropbox by this same method, since you can browse files stored in Dropbox through the Files app when the Dropbox app is installed.
The US Pentagon, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security on Friday exposed a North Korean hacking operation and provided technical details for seven pieces of malware used in the campaign.
The US Cyber National Mission Force, an arm of the Pentagon’s US Cyber Command, said on Twitter that the malware is “currently used for phishing & remote access by [North Korean government] cyber actors to conduct illegal activity, steal funds & evade sanctions.” The tweet linked to a post on VirusTotal, the Alphabet-owned malware repository, that provided cryptographic hashes, file names, and other technical details that can help defenders identify compromises inside the networks they protect.
Malware attributed to #NorthKorea by @FBI_NCIJTF just released here: https://t.co/cBqSL7DJzI. This malware is currently used for phishing & remote access by #DPRK cyber actors to conduct illegal activity, steal funds & evade sanctions. #HappyValentines @CISAgov @DHS @US_CYBERCOM
— USCYBERCOM Malware Alert (@CNMF_VirusAlert) February 14, 2020
An accompanying advisory from the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the campaign was the work of Hidden Cobra, the government’s name for a hacking group sponsored by the North Korean Government. Many security researchers in the private sector use other names for the group, including Lazarus and Zinc. Six of the seven malware families were uploaded to VirusTotal on Friday. They included:
3D printers are great for rapid prototyping and building low-volume, specialized parts, but they sure can take a while. Today's 3D printers might be called "3D printers" but really, the print heads work in 2D. A 3D model is sliced up into hundreds of 2D horizontal layers and slowly built up, one layer at a time. This layer-by-layer process can take hours or even days, but what if we could print the entire model at once? A new technique demonstrated by researchers from Switzerland's Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)—and further detailed in this Nature article— does just that and can print an entire model in seconds.
The new technique builds a model by hardening a photosensitive resin with a laser, not unlike existing stereolithography (SLA) printers. The big difference here is the application of tomographic techniques, the same used in x-rays and ultrasounds, that allows for rotational printing. Laser light is modulated with a DLP chip (just like in old rear-projection HDTVs) and is blasted into a container full of resin. The laser covers the entire build volume, and the container of resin actually rotates while it's being exposed to the light. The laser projects the model at different rotational perspectives, which is synced up with the spinning resin, and a whole 3D model can be produced in seconds.
The EPFL writes, "The system is currently capable of making two-centimeter structures with a precision of 80 micrometers, about the same as the diameter of a strand of hair. But as the team develops new devices, they should be able to build much bigger objects, potentially up to 15 centimeters." In this first public demonstration, the build volume is 16mm × 16mm × 20mm, making it one of the smallest 3D printers on earth. An 80 um resolution is also nothing to write home about and can be bested by ~$500 consumer SLA printers. It is very fast, though, and the technique is just getting started.